I see from today’s Sunday Telegraph that parish and town councils are going to be encouraged to take on more local services as a way of forcing sorry, encouraging, the cause of Localism and the ‘Big Society’.
No problem with that as a concept, given that the cost of running many of the basic services that people value, is often inflated by the management structure of the organisation that runs the service, but without adding any real value to it.
Unfortunately, what is likely to happen is that, as these grassroots organisations gain more and more power, they are going to turn in to the ‘bureacratic monsters’ they were supposed to be replacing. Those little parish councils currently run by a part time clerk, who probably works for one or even two other parish councils, will suddenly find there’s a need for both a full time clerk, a book keeper or accountant, somebody who has some legal training, an HR expert just in case they get problems with employment law, an elf and safety expert, etc, etc.
Parish and town councils at present are not answerable to anybody, other than their voters, for excessive increases in their precept (their version of the council tax) unlike district councils, that can be capped and forced to re-bill by central government. So the next stage in this charade will be the need to introduce legislation requiring parish and town councils to submit balanced budgets and within government limits – how long before the first parish or town council kicks out their parish clerk and appoints a high paid chief executive? Before you know it you’ll be back where we are today, just using different names for it!